Dessie Hughes sadly died during 2014 prompting Alastair Down to prepare this tribute:
Dessie won eight races at the festival including a Gold Cup, Champion Hurdle and a Stayers Hurdle between 1975 and 1979.
Mick O’Toole provided him with six of his wins including two on Davy Lad.
The second of those wins was in the 1977 Gold Cup. We have the video :
He also won the 1979 Champion Hurdle on Dessie McDonagh’s Monksfield.
Writer Sean Magee later (2002) made this number 8 in the top 10 horse races of all time :
8. Monksfield and Sea Pigeon in the Champion Hurdle
Cheltenham, 14 March 1979
A thrombotic showdown, the greatest race during the golden age of hurdling. Monksfield, who had won the Champion Hurdle in 1978, started favourite and led all the way, but coming to the last flight was joined by the still-cruising Sea Pigeon. The pair flew the last hurdle as if harnessed together and Sea Pigeon poached a lead, only for Monksfield – his head thrust down like a truffle-hound – to battle back on the stands rail and after a prolonged hammer-and-tongs get home by three quarters of a length. Timeform called it ‘as thrilling a race as anyone could ever hope to see’.
Here is the complete list of Dessie Hughes’ Cheltenham Festival winners as jockey:
|Neptune||1975||Davy Lad||Mick O’Toole|
|World Hurdle||1976||Bit of a Jig||Mick O’Toole|
|Supreme Novices||1977||Mac’s Chariot||Mick O’Toole|
|Arkle||1977||Tip the Wink||Pat Taylor|
|Gold Cup||1977||Davy Lad||Mick O’Toole|
|Champion Hurdle||1979||Monksfield||Des McDonogh|
The Irish Independent Dessie Hughes Leading Trainer Award
Monday, February 16, 2015 – Cheltenham Racecourse announces today that the award for leading trainer at The Festival will commemorate the late Dessie Hughes. Sponsorship will be provided by The Irish Independent newspaper again.
The Irish Independent Dessie Hughes Leading Trainer Award will go to the trainer who sends out the most winners during the four days of The Festival (Tuesday, March 10 to Friday, March 13). Willie Mullins has taken the honours for the past two years.
Dessie Hughes, who died on November 16, 2014, at the age of 71, was a major force at Cheltenham both as a jockey and as a trainer. At The Festival, he partnered eight winners as a jockey and saddled six winners as a trainer from his County Kildare base. He was one of an elite band of four people to have both ridden and trained a Champion Hurdle winner.
As a jockey, his biggest triumphs came in the Gold Cup on Davy Lad in 1977 and aboard the tenacious Monksfield in the 1979 Champion Hurdle.
Hardy Eustace provided Hughes with his greatest success as a trainer, landing back-to-back renewals of the Champion Hurdle in 2004 and 2005.
Hughes’ son Richard has been champion jockey on the Flat in Britain for the past three seasons (2012, 2013 and 2014) while his daughter Sandra has succeeded her father as the trainer at Osborne Lodge and already sent out Lieutenant Colonel to two Grade One victories in Ireland this season.
Richard Hughes commented: “Myself, Mum and Sandra are delighted that Dad will be remembered at this year’s Festival with The Irish Independent Dessie Hughes Leading Trainer Award.
“He had so many winners at the course, both as a trainer and a jockey. I will always remember those big races he won, including the Gold Cup (on Davy Lad) and Champion Hurdle (on Monksfield) as a rider and the Champion Hurdle, twice with Hardy Eustace, as a trainer.
“The whole family are very much looking forward to The Festival and we would like to thank The Irish Independent.”
David Courtney, Irish Independent Sports Editor, added: “We are thrilled to be able to commemorate Dessie Hughes by putting his name to the Irish Independent Leading Trainer Award.
“He was such a respected and influential figure in the world of National Hunt racing that we felt it fitting he would be remembered on the biggest stage of all at Cheltenham, where he created so many wonderful memories.”
6 wins as a trainer
1982 Miller Hill – Sky Bet Supreme Novices’ Hurdle
2003 Hardy Eustace – Neptune Investment Management Novices’ Hurdle
2004 Hardy Eustace – Stan James Champion Hurdle
2005 Hardy Eustace – Stan James Champion Hurdle
2005 Oulart – Pertemps Final
2013 Our Conor – JCB Triumph Hurdle<< Back to Cheltenham Festival